I was just having a Facebook debate with Eric Rice (Spin Martin) -- the famous podcast dude and SL developer who lived in Silicon Valley and has now moved to a farm in Washington State.
I was calling him out for a comment he made (just like Chris Abraham the other day on Twitter) about a news article that the Chinese government was going to start tracking people on their cell phones -- and then just like Chris (they're in the same Wired State class of tekkies and social media makkers) he added "like that couldn't happen here *snark*".
I remarked that this was already happening in Belarus with the help of an Austrian mobile company, and that in fact, it wasn't happening here. In fact, if the liberal democratic state of the U.S. goes to cell phone companies, like it can already go to land line companies, to obtain records in lawful pursuit of suspected criminal activity, that's ok. Yeah, truly. You know, it's ok to fight actual crime, and these things -- unlike Russia or China -- are reviewed and examined and judged by independent judiciary and hordes of lawyers and NGOs. Or are you saying that cell phone chat should be a magic Autonomous Zone like a Second Life elf sim, guys? Really.
So the usual argument ensued, where Eric tries to justify himself. He muses about what he thinks of Russia and China and how, "we're getting like them".
I explain how, um, no, we're not. We as bloggers and social media users are not MURDERED; we are not JAILED AND TORTURED, you know, like our equivalents in Russia and China.
Eric thinks a little, and basically says this: but he needs to say things like "snark snark could happen here" to distance himself from the likes of Sarah Palin. Wouldn't want to be like them! See, that's what it's really about. Nervously looking over one's shoulder at the religious right, the conservatives, the Tea Party and wanting to make sure that all the signals, nods, winks are in place so that everyone knows you are not like that tribe.
I point out that the reason the "progressives" never really become persuasive and have significant followers and in fact face such resistance from the right and even liberal middle is because they do this, and that posturing in such moral equivalency in fact means they are lying about the nature of oppressive regimes like Russia and China have and are not serious about what real harm is to journalists and bloggers in those countries, making it seem like "it could happen here".
Eric thinks about this, and then...he brings it out. A case that will show how Amerika is becoming horrible like those other places, yes it is! And here it is: a case of a man who was arrested *merely for linking to a TV site*. Yes, *merely for embedding a video!" OMGODZORZ! It could happen to any of us! Haven't we embedded youtubes in our blogs??? Are we SURE they were all in the public domain????
I asked whether the website in fact was child porn or something -- I wanted to hear the context because it was NOT CREDIBLE. You wouldn't be arrested "just for embedding a video". Please. Although that's what 100 blogs are probably describing it as.
So Eric replies (and hey, if he doesn't think embedding videos is so terrible I'm sure he won't mind me, um, embedding a public Facebook dialogue on my blog, either : ) -- as follows:
It was over intellectual property issues. Links to TV show vids. Like embedding someone's Daily Show or Fox News youtube clips. The Sony legal briefs, judgements, subpoenas in this article: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/03/geohot-site-unmasking/ and the arrest story developing (legal docs inbound) is here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110303/16584013356/ice-arrests-operator-seized-domain-charges-him-with-criminal-copyright-infringement.shtml
Incidentally, the latter is handled by Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division. Over TV Show links.
That's a bit over-the-top. THAT is what I'd expect from Russia or China, not here. I'd hate to see our gov get REALLY PISSED.
So gosh, I had to go see what this AWFUL THING THAT EVIL HOMELAND SECURITY WAS DOING OMGODZORZ WE'RE GETTING JUST LIKE RUSSIA HERE.
And it turns out that this 32-year-old guy ran a site called channelsurfing.net -- that already tells you this isn't just his blog, and not some one-time thing, but an operation, a website devoted to this purpose of streaming masses of other people's content.
Furthermore, it's not just some Daily Show clip, of the sort you find on Yahoo or a blog everyday, but sportcasting. Entire sports shows. Stolen from the feeds of the national sports federations.
He’s accused of pirating telecasts of sporting events held by various sports leagues, including the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment and Ultimate Fighting Championship.
And he's accused of making $90,000 from advertising.
Oh, I see. Oh, Eric. That's not like Russia or China breaking a journalist's arm or throwing him in a dank jail cell over writing about government corruption and pollution of the environment. Um, can you tell the difference?!
Eric is upset -- like other tekkies -- that this guy is a) the subject of Homeland Security and b) put in detention pending trial. The $90,000 is "alleged" and so on.
Well, let's say you ran an illegal chop shop where you stole cars, and you chopped them up for parts or refit them and resold them "hot", and you made $90,000 from this. Would you and your shop and your ill-gotten gains be acceptable somehow? No, of course not. You would be arrested for theft and your chop-shop would not be considered, um, a parking spot for just your car.
Would you say, oh, that's so unfair! Why has that man gone to jail? No, of course you wouldn't! Especially if it was your car, on a street in a suburb of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, right?
In the same way, if you open up a website, and you pirate feeds to it, and embed them, and make money from the ads, you are guilty of theft on a grand scale.
Why is this so hard to understand??? Why is this somehow the government being "evil"?! It's not. It's perfectly adequate prosecution of theft. Of crime. It's enforcement of copyright that needs to be done. The sportcasters have a right to their work and their IP and their product that they have to spend money making and distributing. My God, why is this so fucking hard for you freaks to get?
It's not only that language is corrupted. That war on private property unleashed by Lessig, Doctorow and company of the EFF has so skewed people's minds that they actually think the "human right" involved here now is "my right to steal anything on the Internet I feel like and make money off it" and that the "human rights violation" is when the Homeland Security or any other authority intervenes.
It's worse. It's that they actually think all of that silly stuff AND they can't admit at some level of their being that this is really different than what happens to people on the Internet in China and Russia. When I think of Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, with his arm and head broken and being hospitalized with an induced coma and somehow struggling to survive and coming out and continuing his Live Journal...brutalized by thugs related to a local corrupt government trying to chop down a forest that environmentalists are trying to save -- a story he was covering. When I think of the Chinese ecologists struggling with their issues and being harassed and jailed or this Tibetan green activist imprisoned for five years....
...And then I think of Bryan McCarthy, a 32-year-old Texas resident, charged with embedding stolen sports broadcasts and making a buck off them, and try to somehow compare this...my mind boggles. It just truly boggles.
What do I need to do to get someone like Eric (who is probably still convinceable; a prat like Chris Abraham is probably impossible to ever reason with) to realize how different all this? How the scale of abuses is so much more -- so wildly more! -- abusive in these really authoritarian countries? That this fake chimera of an abusive Amerika -- a shadow that these overfed children like to scare themselves with in Silicon Valley in their ranch homes while they drink mohitos on their decks -- could actually begin to convince them, that they can't see reality...
ICE said that McCarthy made $90,000 from advertising on the site, but doesn’t specify over what time period those profits were made. McCarthy first registered channelsurfing.net back in 2005. The site has received more than 1.3 million hits since it was seized last month.
Well, honestly. Why is it ok to steal sportscast, bring 1.3 million people to click on your ads with them, and make $90,000? It's not. If you are suspected of this crime, and you were arrested, that means there was probably cause to arrest you. It's not like your arm is going to broken; you will not likely be tortured; and if you are innocent, you will have ample lawyers -- likely the EFF will help!
So sorry -- you're not credible if you tell me I need to see this as proof -- or even some sort of indication of concern -- that America "is getting" like China.
I'm much, much more likely to draw a different conclusion here: that your believing that; you willingness to lie about China through moral equivocation; you're inability to see the differences -- THAT is what is more likely to "make us like Russia or China" than something Homeland Security is doing.
So, in short, Eric, why don't I believe you? Why do I find you NOT CREDIBLE? Because you were willing to take a story like this and so twist it, so bend it, so spindle and mutilate it that you could actually claim it to be an example of how America is "becoming like China". That you are so deeply embedded in this deception that you actually think literally that when I don't find you credible, it's a problem of me being too patriotic to see any flaws in Amerika, or too credulous to think my Homeland Security could arrest a guy "over the Internet".
And you actually seem incapable of understanding: your reason is eroded. Your mind is going. You can't see reality. This arrest for a crime is nothing like what happened to Oleg; it's nothing like what happened to the Tibetan green activist. It's different. Those countries are worse. It's ok to say that. It doesn't mean you are uncritical about the U.S. But you get the difference. And you don't claim that pirating sportscasting and making $90,000 off it -- two little bits of context you didn't see fit to put in your Facebook rant -- make all the difference. And that's OK to prosecute.